Tamil Nadu fishermen on indefinite strike

[TamilNet, Monday, 28 January 2008, 09:49 GMT]
Normal life was paralysed in Rameswaram as TamilNadu fishermen continued their indefinite strike into the third day today to condemn the Sri Lanka Navy's atrocities against them and demanded immediate removal of the underwater mines set up by SLN between Kachchatheevu and Neduntheevu. They called for the nullification of the Kachchatheevu agreement and demanded the release of 12 of their brethren arrested by the SLN. None of the 2500 steamers and 1500 country boats ventured into the sea as fishermen were steely in their resolve to indefinitely boycott the seas until their demands were met.

According to reports in the Indian media, fish sold at double the price and fish export companies remained closed in Tamil Nadu. As fishing was the primary occupation in the coastal district of Rameswaram, all subsidiary occupations were affected. Ice and lathe factories downed their shutters, along with all the prawn export factories. The scarcity of fish will prove to be a major hassle. because India is reeling under a bird-flu scare, and there is an increasing demand for fish.

Fishermen's associations in Rameswaram blamed the SLN for indiscriminately killing many of them over the last few years. They were also angry at the Indian government's inaction in not securing the release of the detained Tamil Nadu fishermen, who were currently lodged in Jaffna prison.

12 fishermen from Rameswaram had been arrested on January 22 when they entered the sea waters near Kachchatheevu, a rich catchment area for prawns, that was ceded to Sri Lanka under an agreement that allowed fishing rights for Indian fishermen.

Meanwhile, the fishermen of Rameswaram seem to be getting all support from political quarters in Tamil Nadu.

'This highhanded action of the Lankan Government is a naked aggression into the domain of our sovereign rights in the international waters'', Vaiko, general secretary of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), said. He claimed that a sinister conspiracy lay behind the move to mine the waters: it could effectively prevent the suffering Tamils of Sri Lanka to reach Tamil Nadu as refugees. He had written to the Indian Prime Minister on Friday, urging India to take steps to make Sri Lanka remove the "underwater defence system."

Tamil nationalist leader Pazha. Nedumaran, convenor of the Eelam Tamils Solidarity Coordination Committee, appealed on Sunday to all political parties to get ready for an agitation to express solidarity with the striking fishermen.

Viduthalai Chiruththaikal Katchi (VCK) leader Thol. Thirumavalavan urged the Centre to take steps on war footing to remove the defence systems installed between Katchatheevu and Neduntheevu on the high seas. Installation of such a system was aimed at scuttling Indian fishermen from fishing and derailing the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project (SSCP), he said.

In today's session of the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly, a special call attention motion was moved by the AIADMK, Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist), VCK and MDMK demanding the State government to pressurise the Centre to take over Kachchatheevu from Sri Lanka and take steps to remove sea mines planted in the area by the SLN. AIADMK member Jayakumar warned that the sea mines laid in the Kachchatheevu area would affect the Tamilnadu fishermen and the mines could wash ashore to the Tamilnadu coast due to underwater sea current.

State Electricity Minister Arcot Veerasamy responded to the call attention motion and said that he had spoken to the Union Minister of State, External Affairs, E Ahamed, who had promised to take up the issue with his Sri Lankan counterpart.


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